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Strange NationLiterary Nationalism and Cultural Conflict in the Age of Poe$
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J. Gerald Kennedy

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780195393682

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195393682.001.0001

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America against Itself

America against Itself

The South, Slavery, and Dissociative National Identities

(p.263) 7 America against Itself
Strange Nation

J. Gerald Kennedy

Oxford University Press

Slavery formed an egregious contradiction to myths of national virtue, creating a strange, split personality at the core of American identity. This split long manifested itself as sectional antagonism, concealing divisions within both North and South rooted in the tension between equality and racism. This chapter covers antislavery arguments by David Walker, Lydia Maria Child, and Angelina Grimké; proslavery novels and disquisitions by Kennedy, Tucker, and Paulding; slave narratives depicting the ordeals of Nat Turner, Charles Ball, and Frederick Douglass; an antislavery novel by Richard Hildreth; and two strange novels inflected by slavery—Bird’s Sheppard Lee and Poe’s The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym. The strangeness of the South (as the crux of national contradiction) deeply informs novels of the early 1850s, including Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Brown’s Clotel.

Keywords:   Slavery, split personality, sectional antagonism, internal divisions, slave narratives, antislavery arguments, proslavery novels, strangeness, the South

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